Rating: 3/5Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
This is another book that I tried to read when I was very young and just couldn’t get through.  That being said, if I hadn’t had to read it for school, I wouldn’t have finished it this time around either.

While Oliver Twist is an interesting read and the mystery unfolds in a way that keeps you guessing, I just couldn’t get through the unrelentingly terrible treatment of orphan Oliver Twist.  

The story follows Oliver from his birth in a workhouse through his various caregivers who are all selfish, unloving, and even cruel.  He’s labelled as a bad seed from birth and treated that way for hundreds of pages.  Any spark of hope, any light at the end of a tunnel, is instantly squashed and things are left even worse than they were before.  It might be intrigue for some, but it’s just not something that I look for as a reader.  

On the other hand, after slogging through, I was pleased with where the story went and I enjoyed learning more about the criminals and their motives.  Oliver does eventually meet some people who aren’t completely evil, but then the problem arises of them being entirely too good.  

The characters were one dimensional and even Oliver never really changes.  Despite his circumstances, he remains the same naive, innocent little boy who famously asks for more gruel.  

The ending comes up rather quickly and ties up the loose ends a little too perfectly for my taste, but I was dying to know how everything worked out, and Dickens leaves no stone unturned.  Even the most minor characters, including the dead ones, get a mention in the last few chapters and nothing is left to the imagination— a blessing, or a curse, depending on your preference for finality or sophistication.  

Rating: 3/5
Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

This is another book that I tried to read when I was very young and just couldn’t get through.  That being said, if I hadn’t had to read it for school, I wouldn’t have finished it this time around either.

While Oliver Twist is an interesting read and the mystery unfolds in a way that keeps you guessing, I just couldn’t get through the unrelentingly terrible treatment of orphan Oliver Twist.  

The story follows Oliver from his birth in a workhouse through his various caregivers who are all selfish, unloving, and even cruel.  He’s labelled as a bad seed from birth and treated that way for hundreds of pages.  Any spark of hope, any light at the end of a tunnel, is instantly squashed and things are left even worse than they were before.  It might be intrigue for some, but it’s just not something that I look for as a reader.  

On the other hand, after slogging through, I was pleased with where the story went and I enjoyed learning more about the criminals and their motives.  Oliver does eventually meet some people who aren’t completely evil, but then the problem arises of them being entirely too good.  

The characters were one dimensional and even Oliver never really changes.  Despite his circumstances, he remains the same naive, innocent little boy who famously asks for more gruel.  

The ending comes up rather quickly and ties up the loose ends a little too perfectly for my taste, but I was dying to know how everything worked out, and Dickens leaves no stone unturned.  Even the most minor characters, including the dead ones, get a mention in the last few chapters and nothing is left to the imagination— a blessing, or a curse, depending on your preference for finality or sophistication.  

Rating: 5/5To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before - Jenny Han
I love Jenny Han. I recommend The Summer I Turned Pretty series to everyone, and while this one is not quite as fabulous, there’s two more books in the series so I’m very optimistic. This book is not what I expected at all. Granted, I almost never read synopses of books before I read them, but based on the title alone I was expecting to read about a girl obsessed with her exes and gradually learning to let them go and move on with her evolved life, and that’s not what this is at all. Instead of being rooted in the past, this story is all about what can happen in the present and the future if you let your guard down. The main character, Lara Jean, is naïve and “judgey” but she tries new things throughout the novel and seems to grow in a really authentic way. I honestly just think Jenny Han is just an amazing author who really knows what it feels like to be a teenager in love. I love the whole Song family. I love the dynamic of an older sister in college and her high school sweetheart who wants to remain part of the family, I love Lara Jean’s struggle between keeping a close relationship with her sisters and father and her need for privacy as a teenager, I even love her little sister Kitty whose hand I could always predict in whatever mischief occurred. I was amused by a reference to 4 Lokos which was great if only because I’ve had that exact conversation with my friends before and it was a nice little homage to high school. The only thing that frustrated me is how many cliffhangers we’re left with. I should’ve assumed it was part of a series, but I didn’t think about it and now I’m going to be on pins and needles waiting for the next one. It probably shouldn’t get a full five stars because I have very mixed feelings about the ending of this novel, but nothing that can’t be resolved in the next installment and overall, I’m satisfied with the way Lara Jean is evolving as a character and I’m just very excited to see where she, and the rest of the characters, go next. 

Rating: 5/5
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before - Jenny Han

I love Jenny Han. I recommend The Summer I Turned Pretty series to everyone, and while this one is not quite as fabulous, there’s two more books in the series so I’m very optimistic. 

This book is not what I expected at all. Granted, I almost never read synopses of books before I read them, but based on the title alone I was expecting to read about a girl obsessed with her exes and gradually learning to let them go and move on with her evolved life, and that’s not what this is at all. Instead of being rooted in the past, this story is all about what can happen in the present and the future if you let your guard down. The main character, Lara Jean, is naïve and “judgey” but she tries new things throughout the novel and seems to grow in a really authentic way. I honestly just think Jenny Han is just an amazing author who really knows what it feels like to be a teenager in love. 

I love the whole Song family. I love the dynamic of an older sister in college and her high school sweetheart who wants to remain part of the family, I love Lara Jean’s struggle between keeping a close relationship with her sisters and father and her need for privacy as a teenager, I even love her little sister Kitty whose hand I could always predict in whatever mischief occurred. 

I was amused by a reference to 4 Lokos which was great if only because I’ve had that exact conversation with my friends before and it was a nice little homage to high school. 

The only thing that frustrated me is how many cliffhangers we’re left with. I should’ve assumed it was part of a series, but I didn’t think about it and now I’m going to be on pins and needles waiting for the next one. It probably shouldn’t get a full five stars because I have very mixed feelings about the ending of this novel, but nothing that can’t be resolved in the next installment and overall, I’m satisfied with the way Lara Jean is evolving as a character and I’m just very excited to see where she, and the rest of the characters, go next. 

Sorry for the late post this week! I’ve been in a reading frenzy, but haven’t taken the time to write out the reviews yet. Hope you’re all having as much fun doing summer reading as I am!

Rating: 4.5/5
The Art of Racing in the Rain - Garth Stein

Upon finishing the book, I immediately wanted to give it a five star rating, but now that I’ve had a day to consider it, I don’t think I could give it more than a 4.5.  

The Art of Racing in the Rain is told from the perspective of a dog, Enzo, who believes that when dogs die, if they are ready, they return to the world in human form.  I’ve seen many people who hate that it’s written like that, mostly because they think that it doesn’t add anything to the story, but I disagree.  The biggest thing that kept coming up with Enzo was how helpless it was.  His master was suffering and he could do nothing to help him, not even offer some words of comfort, much like the master himself could do nothing to get out of his situation.  

I wanted to give it a five when I finished it, but I’ve had time to reflect and I’m remembering now the hours I spent reading as fast I could, sure that the conflict had to be resolved somewhere.  The story of this man is just so frustratingly terrible that I couldn’t stand it.  It was stressing me out reading setback after setback, which is by no means a flaw of the book, maybe just me being more empathetic toward fictional characters than need be.  

Stein does take some liberties with the narrator and he bypasses some of the limitations that come with a dog as your narrator, but this was just another case where a book had me so swept up that I didn’t mind.  That probably makes me a bad reviewer, but I’m the kind of person who thinks a book has merit any time it draws you into its world, and that’s exactly what this one does.  

I cried like a baby.  I definitely recommend it.  

Rating: 4.5/5

The Art of Racing in the Rain - Garth Stein

Upon finishing the book, I immediately wanted to give it a five star rating, but now that I’ve had a day to consider it, I don’t think I could give it more than a 4.5.  

The Art of Racing in the Rain is told from the perspective of a dog, Enzo, who believes that when dogs die, if they are ready, they return to the world in human form.  I’ve seen many people who hate that it’s written like that, mostly because they think that it doesn’t add anything to the story, but I disagree.  The biggest thing that kept coming up with Enzo was how helpless it was.  His master was suffering and he could do nothing to help him, not even offer some words of comfort, much like the master himself could do nothing to get out of his situation.  

I wanted to give it a five when I finished it, but I’ve had time to reflect and I’m remembering now the hours I spent reading as fast I could, sure that the conflict had to be resolved somewhere.  The story of this man is just so frustratingly terrible that I couldn’t stand it.  It was stressing me out reading setback after setback, which is by no means a flaw of the book, maybe just me being more empathetic toward fictional characters than need be.  

Stein does take some liberties with the narrator and he bypasses some of the limitations that come with a dog as your narrator, but this was just another case where a book had me so swept up that I didn’t mind.  That probably makes me a bad reviewer, but I’m the kind of person who thinks a book has merit any time it draws you into its world, and that’s exactly what this one does.  

I cried like a baby.  I definitely recommend it.  

Pssst,

so yeah, I just read the entire The Selection trilogy in less than 24 hours, what of it?

Truly addicting.

Rating: 3.5/5Virgin - Radhika Sanghani
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Virgin is what I wish the sex column at my University would sound like.  For someone who feels like they’ve seen it all at times, I learned a lot and I was inspired to ask my friends some questions I’d never felt comfortable asking them before.  Virgin is not perfectly written, but the information, the tips, and just the confirmation that someone else had terrifyingly awkward experiences too is worth the read, at least for those young enough to remember what it’s like.  

From the start, I wasn’t sure I could get too into this book.  Reading the word “virgin” for the 30th time before the end of the second chapter was getting old, but more than that, the main character’s self-deprecating sense of humor wasn’t funny so much as it was draining and a little embarrassing.  I get it, you’re a virgin and it’s awkward.  In the acknowledgements, the author refers to early drafts of the novel as “the slightly weird book I was writing to cheer myself up” and I couldn’t shake the idea that this was a really personal, probably semi-autobiographical story.  Quite a few times throughout the novel I got really uncomfortable with the language and the graphic descriptions, but I just had to remind myself it’s because those conversations are normally taboo and getting them out there was  good thing.  But when I read the description of the first time she tried shaving her bikini line, I almost lost it.  It was laugh out loud funny and too true and I knew I had to keep reading to find out more.   

Said virgin, Eileen, and her self-proclaimed “slutty” friend (which is handled really well!) come together to start a vlog—a virginity blog.  The idea is sweet, but the entries are a little corny, and it was odd reading a book about a subject that the characters are writing about in the blog.  It almost served as a placeholder instead of allowing the characters to just have a conversation about the topics.  All the same, it was decent and I like where they took it, but I couldn’t help but feel they abandoned it as the plot began to thicken.    


The characters in the novel besides Eileen are really just side characters—we don’t ever see them really doing anything besides foiling their sexual knowledge and maturity against poor, naïve Eileen.  If the premise of a 21 year old who has just never been propositioned for sex was a little iffy at times, the realism in the way events unfold made it compelling enough to stick with it.  The ending was both eye-rolling ridiculous and yet fitting.  A unique ending to a unique novel and a reminder that life is not a fairytale.  

Rating: 3.5/5
Virgin - Radhika Sanghani

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Virgin is what I wish the sex column at my University would sound like.  For someone who feels like they’ve seen it all at times, I learned a lot and I was inspired to ask my friends some questions I’d never felt comfortable asking them before.  Virgin is not perfectly written, but the information, the tips, and just the confirmation that someone else had terrifyingly awkward experiences too is worth the read, at least for those young enough to remember what it’s like.  

From the start, I wasn’t sure I could get too into this book.  Reading the word “virgin” for the 30th time before the end of the second chapter was getting old, but more than that, the main character’s self-deprecating sense of humor wasn’t funny so much as it was draining and a little embarrassing.  I get it, you’re a virgin and it’s awkward.  In the acknowledgements, the author refers to early drafts of the novel as “the slightly weird book I was writing to cheer myself up” and I couldn’t shake the idea that this was a really personal, probably semi-autobiographical story.  Quite a few times throughout the novel I got really uncomfortable with the language and the graphic descriptions, but I just had to remind myself it’s because those conversations are normally taboo and getting them out there was  good thing.  But when I read the description of the first time she tried shaving her bikini line, I almost lost it.  It was laugh out loud funny and too true and I knew I had to keep reading to find out more.   

Said virgin, Eileen, and her self-proclaimed “slutty” friend (which is handled really well!) come together to start a vlog—a virginity blog.  The idea is sweet, but the entries are a little corny, and it was odd reading a book about a subject that the characters are writing about in the blog.  It almost served as a placeholder instead of allowing the characters to just have a conversation about the topics.  All the same, it was decent and I like where they took it, but I couldn’t help but feel they abandoned it as the plot began to thicken.    

The characters in the novel besides Eileen are really just side characters—we don’t ever see them really doing anything besides foiling their sexual knowledge and maturity against poor, naïve Eileen.  If the premise of a 21 year old who has just never been propositioned for sex was a little iffy at times, the realism in the way events unfold made it compelling enough to stick with it.  The ending was both eye-rolling ridiculous and yet fitting.  A unique ending to a unique novel and a reminder that life is not a fairytale.  

Rating: 5/5We Are Not Ourselves - Matthew Thomas
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I don’t think a book has ever made me cry this hard.  Not just tears, but full out heartbroken sobbing.  

This is a pretty long book, and for a good amount of time I wasn’t sure where it was going, but I kept reading because I liked the main character, Eileen, and she agreed with a lot of my basic tenants about being the best that you can at whatever you do, working hard, saving money.  The novel is about the American Dream and creating a good life for your family even if you come from nothing.  It’s also an unlikely love story.  

The character building is incredible.  It’s slow and subtle and their personalities and quirks aren’t just rattled off, but shown throughout different scenes in the book.  I grew to love and hate them at different times, but I was always rooting for them and I only grew more attached to them with every page.

Towards the middle of the novel, I thought that I could be reading my new favorite book of all time, it was that moving, that important, and that beautiful.   Unfortunately, the last 100 or so pages took it too far for me.  I had been ready for the story to end, but it kept going and I grew a little uncomfortable with the new relationships forming, and I even started to feel, at least at one point, that it was getting a little melodramatic and just trying to break your heart.  But all throughout, it continued to be very honest and very beautifully written and it is destined to become a masterpiece.  

In the beginning, I knew I’d love it, but I knew I could never get very many people to read it because it was so long, by the middle I knew that I would force people to read it to because it’d change their life, and now I know I could only recommend this to a very special sort of person.  My first recommendations are always to my sister and my mom, but my sister’s way too young to appreciate it and my mom would never forgive me for making her so miserably sad for fictional characters.  I don’t say that it’s heartbreaking like when your favorite character dies, but in the way that it so honestly explores the ways in which life can simultaneously lift you up and let you down.  

A beautiful, beautiful book.  It’s not for everyone.  If you value action over growth and development, you’ll hate it, but this is the kind of novel that can open you up to a life you’ll never get to live if you’re willing to give it a try.  

I don’t own many physical copies of books, I’m an e-reader kind of girl, but I will have to get a hardcover of this and read it again and again.

Rating: 5/5
We Are Not Ourselves - Matthew Thomas

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I don’t think a book has ever made me cry this hard.  Not just tears, but full out heartbroken sobbing.  

This is a pretty long book, and for a good amount of time I wasn’t sure where it was going, but I kept reading because I liked the main character, Eileen, and she agreed with a lot of my basic tenants about being the best that you can at whatever you do, working hard, saving money.  The novel is about the American Dream and creating a good life for your family even if you come from nothing.  It’s also an unlikely love story.  

The character building is incredible.  It’s slow and subtle and their personalities and quirks aren’t just rattled off, but shown throughout different scenes in the book.  I grew to love and hate them at different times, but I was always rooting for them and I only grew more attached to them with every page.

Towards the middle of the novel, I thought that I could be reading my new favorite book of all time, it was that moving, that important, and that beautiful.   Unfortunately, the last 100 or so pages took it too far for me.  I had been ready for the story to end, but it kept going and I grew a little uncomfortable with the new relationships forming, and I even started to feel, at least at one point, that it was getting a little melodramatic and just trying to break your heart.  But all throughout, it continued to be very honest and very beautifully written and it is destined to become a masterpiece.  

In the beginning, I knew I’d love it, but I knew I could never get very many people to read it because it was so long, by the middle I knew that I would force people to read it to because it’d change their life, and now I know I could only recommend this to a very special sort of person.  My first recommendations are always to my sister and my mom, but my sister’s way too young to appreciate it and my mom would never forgive me for making her so miserably sad for fictional characters.  I don’t say that it’s heartbreaking like when your favorite character dies, but in the way that it so honestly explores the ways in which life can simultaneously lift you up and let you down.  

A beautiful, beautiful book.  It’s not for everyone.  If you value action over growth and development, you’ll hate it, but this is the kind of novel that can open you up to a life you’ll never get to live if you’re willing to give it a try.  

I don’t own many physical copies of books, I’m an e-reader kind of girl, but I will have to get a hardcover of this and read it again and again.

I made a twitter!  Follow me!  @BooksThatBurn

And as always, you’re all welcome to be my friend on Goodreads!

Rating: 4/5Ender’s Game - Orson Scott Card
(To read a full review with spoilers, click here.)
After finishing the novel, my first impulse was to give it a 5 and leave it at that, but I decided to sit on it a few days before I wrote my review, and now I’d have a hard time giving it more than a 4.  I think the problem is that I get so wrapped up in novels when I read them in one or two sittings that having to come back to reality is always just a little disappointing and all good books seem like the best while you’re still shaking off the spell.  

That said, Ender’s Game is a fantastic book.  From the very beginning you’re sucked into Ender’s world as you see his relationships with those around him.  Ender becomes instantly interesting because of his contradictions, like the way he stands up to bullies, but takes abuse from the brother he lives with.  Ender is a precocious six-year-old to say the least, but all of the children in the novel are.  It’s a little annoying as an older reader, but as a kid I’m sure it’s refreshing to see that kids can kick butt too.  

Most of the novel, and most of Ender’s life, revolve around the “games” at the Battle Academy.  These games are supposed to set the children apart and prepare them for future battles, but to be honest, most of the logistics went over my head.  Like the “launchies”, without actually seeing it myself I have a hard time understanding what re-orienting yourself in zero gravity would be like, and many of the rules of the game aren’t even explained until they’re broken.  In fact, most of my problem with this novel is just how much I didn’t understand— the main one being the conflict resolution of the novel— (to read my full review with spoilers, click here.)
Despite how rough some of the characters come across as first, most are eventually humanized and Ender finds a way to relate to them all that makes the reader want to relate to them as well.  Not only are the children portrayed as smart, but they’re insightful, empathetic, and easy to relate to.  Ender and Valentine especially, remain so inherently good that it’s hard not to be on their side.  Ender becomes a bit more cynical and unlikable as the novel goes on, but it seems natural because that’s what his environment has made him.  I especially like this novel for younger readers because the villains’ corruption is inter-laced with affection and good intentions, making even those we are supposed to dislike into real people with real feelings (even when adults who supposedly know everything are telling you just the opposite).  

Take my criticism with a grain of salt.  I think I waited too long to write the review and now I’m forgetting what was so compelling, but I devoured this book in two or three sittings and I think it’s definitely one of the best dystopias I’ve read.  On the other hand, I felt that it ended on a pretty decent note and I saw that there’s over 13 novels in this saga?  This one was great, and I recommend it highly, but my interest doesn’t extend very far beyond.  

Rating: 4/5
Ender’s Game - Orson Scott Card

(To read a full review with spoilers, click here.)

After finishing the novel, my first impulse was to give it a 5 and leave it at that, but I decided to sit on it a few days before I wrote my review, and now I’d have a hard time giving it more than a 4.  I think the problem is that I get so wrapped up in novels when I read them in one or two sittings that having to come back to reality is always just a little disappointing and all good books seem like the best while you’re still shaking off the spell.  

That said, Ender’s Game is a fantastic book.  From the very beginning you’re sucked into Ender’s world as you see his relationships with those around him.  Ender becomes instantly interesting because of his contradictions, like the way he stands up to bullies, but takes abuse from the brother he lives with.  Ender is a precocious six-year-old to say the least, but all of the children in the novel are.  It’s a little annoying as an older reader, but as a kid I’m sure it’s refreshing to see that kids can kick butt too.  

Most of the novel, and most of Ender’s life, revolve around the “games” at the Battle Academy.  These games are supposed to set the children apart and prepare them for future battles, but to be honest, most of the logistics went over my head.  Like the “launchies”, without actually seeing it myself I have a hard time understanding what re-orienting yourself in zero gravity would be like, and many of the rules of the game aren’t even explained until they’re broken.  In fact, most of my problem with this novel is just how much I didn’t understand— the main one being the conflict resolution of the novel— (to read my full review with spoilers, click here.)

Despite how rough some of the characters come across as first, most are eventually humanized and Ender finds a way to relate to them all that makes the reader want to relate to them as well.  Not only are the children portrayed as smart, but they’re insightful, empathetic, and easy to relate to.  Ender and Valentine especially, remain so inherently good that it’s hard not to be on their side.  Ender becomes a bit more cynical and unlikable as the novel goes on, but it seems natural because that’s what his environment has made him.  I especially like this novel for younger readers because the villains’ corruption is inter-laced with affection and good intentions, making even those we are supposed to dislike into real people with real feelings (even when adults who supposedly know everything are telling you just the opposite).  

Take my criticism with a grain of salt.  I think I waited too long to write the review and now I’m forgetting what was so compelling, but I devoured this book in two or three sittings and I think it’s definitely one of the best dystopias I’ve read.  On the other hand, I felt that it ended on a pretty decent note and I saw that there’s over 13 novels in this saga?  This one was great, and I recommend it highly, but my interest doesn’t extend very far beyond.